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Heart of Palm : Benefits and Downsides

What is Heart of Palm

The heart of palm is a nutrient-dense vegetable that is harvested from the core of certain types of palm trees. It is a versatile addition to a variety of dishes and has numerous benefits. It can be jarred, canned, added to salads, eaten on its own, and can also be used as an alternative to meat.

It is off-white or cream in color and when cut into, it is cylindrical and ring-like resembling leek.

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Heart of palm is also known as palm heart, palmetto, palmito, palm cabbage, chonta, and swamp cabbage.

Benefits of Heart of Palm

Heart of palm is known for its range of benefits for health:

Antioxidant Properties

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Polyphenols present in heart of palm are the free radical scavengers that neutralize free radicals and prevent them from causing damage.(1, 2)

Excess of free radicals may increase the risk of certain chronic conditions including:

It is Nutrient Dense

Heart of palm is rich in essential vitamins and minerals and is low in calories, fat, and carbohydrates.

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According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the canned heart of palm contains 28 calories, 2.53 grams of protein, 0.62 grams of fat, 4.62 grams of carbohydrates, 2.4 grams of dietary fiber, and 58 milligrams of calcium, 1.15 milligrams of zinc, 177 mg of potassium, and 39 micrograms of folate.(3)

Potassium is an essential mineral that has a crucial role to play in the human body.(4) It helps in preventing hypertension and is vital for synthesizing protein and metabolizing carbohydrates.

Phosphorus is another important component that is essential for DNA, RNA, bones, and teeth.(5)

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Zinc is important for the body’s immune function and also supports a baby’s growth and development in the womb.

Helps in Weight Loss

Being low in calories, carbohydrates, and fats, heart of palm can be a healthy option for people in weight loss programs.

It has a high content of plant-based protein, water, and fiber that can be helpful in making a person feel full.(6)

According to a study, plant-based dieting in overweight individuals helped in improving body composition and weight loss.(7)

Body Tissue Repair

There are essential amino acids in heart of palm including lysin and leucine that are necessary for the repair of body tissue and in protein synthesis.

It is also high in protein and is a preferred vegan source of protein. A study found that the protein present in heart of palm is a suitable substitute for animal protein.(8)

Important for Heart Health

Heart of palm contains a significant amount of chlorogenic acid. It is a compound with heart-protective properties.(9) It may be helpful in lowering blood pressure and preventing thrombosis and atherosclerosis.

Heart of palm is also rich in soluble and insoluble fibers that not only protect digestive health but also lower cholesterol.(10)

Regulates Blood Sugar

Heart of palm can be used as a substitute for highly processed foods and can be helpful in reducing insulin resistance.(7)

Insulin resistance increases the blood sugar level and may lead to conditions including metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease and obesity.

Downsides of Heart of Palm

Heart of palm is high in protein but may not contain as much protein to meet a person’s dietary needs. Additional protein sources may be needed to complete the protein intake. Heart of palm is mostly sold in a canned form that may increase its sodium content due to the added preservatives. It is therefore important to wash hearts of palm to remove the brine from it that may contain salt.

Heart of palm can be eaten raw, but this is not common as it is a highly perishable vegetable. It is an extremely versatile vegetable that can be added to many dishes.

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